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Could marijuana legalization be on November ballot? New coalition pushes initiative petition

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A push to get marijuana legalization on the November ballot is underway in Missouri. 

The Missourians for a New Approach announced Thursday it has launched an effort to gather enough signatures to place an initiative petition on November’s ballot that would legalize recreational marijuana use and possession for individuals who are at least 21 years old. With Missouri’s voter-approved medical marijuana program still in its first stages, the coalition has until May 3 to collect more than 160,000 signatures to get the initiative petition on the ballot. 

“Eleven other states, including our neighbors in Illinois, have successfully regulated and taxed adult-use marijuana, bringing millions in new funding for state services,” John Payne, Missourians for New Approach’s campaign manager, said. 

If approved, the initiative petition (2020-128) would allow for the recreational use and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivation of up to three plants for Missourians who are at least 21. It would also allow for commercial cultivation, manufacture, and sale of marijuana by state-licensed facilities. 

Additionally, the initiative petition seeks to impose a 15 percent tax with the money going toward veterans’ services, state highways, and drug addiction treatment. It would also give an opportunity for those with a marijuana-related conviction to apply for a sentence reduction or expungement.  

“It’s time we stop treating adults who use cannabis responsibly like criminals,” said Dan Viets, Missourians for a New Approach board member. “We should tax and regulate marijuana like we do alcohol.” 

Missourians for a New Approach has seen large donations just this week, including $80,000 Thursday. 

“I think Missourians are confident in the way the state has managed and regulated the medical marijuana program to this point and want to move sooner rather than later, following in the footsteps of many other states, to legalize the adult use of marijuana,” Payne said. 

The group says the initiative will result in up to $155 million annually for the state by 2025, and local governments could bring in up to $27 million as well. The effort is backed by many of the same advocacy organizations that pushed for the legalization of medical marijuana.

Payne said they’re using some of the lessons learned from the medical push as they forge ahead with this new initiative. Particularly, he noted they won’t try to “prescribe every last detail” but will instead leave the minute specifics to the appropriate regulatory body or legislature.

“It’s a system where you have to build out a scaffolding that gets filled in later with rules and regulations by the regulatory body,” Payne told The Missouri Times. “I think we did that well with the medical proposal, and we’re taking that same form here. We create the system and the finer details we leave.”

Recreational marijuana is already legal in: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Illinois residents were allowed to purchase marijuana just at the start of this year.

The Secretary of State’s Office has approved a few petitions related to marijuana legalization to circulate. Ballot measure 2020-128 was submitted by Brad Ketcher in November. 

Payne said the team is ready to move “full steam ahead” in the next few days to begin collecting signatures.

A total of 148 initiative petitions have been submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. In total, six petitions are accepting comments, 76 have been approved to circulate, 41 have been rejected, and 25 have been withdrawn. 

This article is part of a periodic update on the initiative petition process. Other stories in the series can be found here.